LSU, UCLA Will Test ACC Teams

The eight-team College World Series field is divided into two four-team double elimination brackets. North Carolina and NC State have been grouped with LSU and UCLA, with the winner of the four-team group earning a spot in the best-of-three championship series against Louisville, Indiana, Mississippi State, or Oregon State. Here is a preview of the four teams that will begin play on Sunday.

North Carolina (No. 1 National Seed, 57-10)

The ACC Champion North Carolina Tar Heels have been nothing short of dramatic in the postseason. UNC has won games of 13, 14, and 18 innings in length during the postseason, as well as an 11 inning game against Virginia in their last series of the regular season.

Part of North Carolina’s theatrics can be tied to the performance of their top players. ACC Player of the Year Colin Moran is batting .214 in the NCAA Tournament, while ACC Pitcher of the Year Kent Emanuel has a 10.22 ERA over the last two weekends.

Players such as freshman Landon Lassiter and senior Cody Stubbs have stepped up offensively to make up for Moran’s slump, while Trent Thornton has carried the Tar Heel bullpen with starters Emanuel, Hobbs Johnson, and Benton Moss struggling. However, North Carolina will likely need production from Emanuel, Moran, and outfielder Skye Bolt to make an extended Omaha run.

NC State (No. 1 Seed – Raleigh Regional, 49-14)

The Wolfpack has won 10 of its last 11 games after sweeping through Regional and Super Regional play. NC State hopes the hot play can continue in the program’s first trip to Omaha since 1968.

NC State’s offense will put plenty of pressure on opposing teams. Trea Turner’s .460 on base percentage and 27 stolen bases have the power to effectively turn any single or walk into scoring position. He also has seven home runs, just behind Tarran Senay’s eight blasts (two of which have come in the NCAA Tournament).

The Wolfpack also boasts Carlos Rodon and Ethan Ogburn on the mound. The duo have a 3.02 combined ERA, and Rodon has struck out 170 batters this season. In three starts since the conclusion of the regular season, Rodon has a 0.98 ERA with 33 strikeouts to just four walks in 27 1/3 innings.

UCLA (No. 1 Seed – Los Angeles Regional, 44-17)

UCLA has the weakest offense of the eight College World Series clubs. However, the strength of their pitching gives them a fighting chance against their national championship competitors.

The Bruins score just 4.8 runs per game, placing them 205th in Division I in scoring. The team’s leading hitter, Kevin Kramer, is .279 on the year (and .158 in NCAA Tournament play) with 40 RBI. Sophomore Eric Filia has improved his batting average in 2013 to .278 with a .524 average in NCAA play.

Nonetheless, UCLA has only lost one series since mid-April and swept the Los Angeles Regional and Fullerton Super Regional. Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig, and Grant Weston form a stout rotation with a combined 2.60 ERA and 210 strikeouts. Throw in a dominant bullpen led by David Berg (0.88 ERA, 73 strikeouts, 21 saves), and it will be a tall task for opponents to score against the Bruins.

LSU (No. 4 National Seed, 57-9)

Winners of the SEC Championship, Louisiana State has arguably the most talented team in Omaha. Nine Tigers were selected in this year’s MLB Draft, led by second-round pick Ryan Eades. LSU is 15th in Division I in batting average (.308) and third in earned run average (2.41).

Sophomore Aaron Nola was SEC Pitcher of the Year and has not allowed an earned run in the NCAA Tournament, recording 12 strikeouts in 16 innings of work. Fourth-round draft pick Mason Katz is batting .366 with 15 home runs and 68 runs batted in this season.

The greatest asset for the Tigers is its defense. The team has a .980 fielding percentage, placing them fifth in the nation, committing 66 errors in 66 games. With the spacious dimensions of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, defense will be at a premium.


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